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Letter to the Editor: Tolerance vs. Racism

Daniel Markus, an Australian ex-pat who has been teaching English at Bratislava's Gymnázium Matky Alexie for seven years, gave his English students (16 to 17 years old) an assignment in November: write a Letter to the Editor based on something they read in Vol. 5 No. 38 of The Slovak Spectator. Here is some of what they wrote:

Dear Editor,
I read the article 'Roma arrive home from Belgian detention camps', and I realized it's not a bad idea to make a little trip to Belgium nowadays. What would probably happen if I tried?
Firstly, I would apply for asylum there because I feel so oppressed here in Slovakia when Zuzka permanently criticizes my green skirt and Janko eats my chocolate without asking.
I know there's no chance I would be granted asylum in Belgium, but at least I would spend a few wonderful days in Brussels. I'm really curious if the Slovak government would send an aeroplane for me and would pay 300,000 crowns for my flight back.
In my opinion, we can characterize 'the Roma' as a certain way of living which has nothing to do with skin colour. This way of living is absolutely unacceptable for a normal society, but we have to tolerate it so no one can say we are racists. Is this right? Why should we pretend with large smiles and cheery faces that everything is OK?

Veronika

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